I Built a New House

Come.

Come let me show you my home. The home I am going to bring down and plant a new one in its place.

Why?

Because my home has given up. Every joint creaks. Every seam is stretched. Like Bheeshm, it has vowed not to fall. Like a mother, it covers my head. On Diwali, my home was decked up with whitewash. A baraati in all his royalty. Come rains, my home is still a baraati, a poor man in a rich baraat.

My mother plastered the walls and the roof.

“She is the finest tailor in the world”, they declare.

But then again, decking up a falling house is like singing hymns to the dying.

 *

When the first shovel hit the walls, the topmost brick fell and shattered, only to reveal a seed  hid in its womb. When the first shovel hit, I saw a tear fell from  Dadi’s eyes- a silent farewell song to the house she made into a home.

To tell you the truth, I don’t want to tear it down. No.

I see no way out.

The walls are rotten, from the bricks above to all the layers of mortar beneath. When night falls, the knobs and latches creak eerily and the babies cry. All the chanted threads can ward off the ghosts that dwell here. There is no thread that can silence the creaks and wail of the night storm that swoops in through the broken window panes. The house won’t stand. I know that.

What is it, then, that saddens me?

The fact that with each wall I am going to blast open, a story will fall out. The civilization that thrives in the abyss of each dark corner, will crumple. In the holes, live sparrows- toiling hard only to return to the space in my wall. In the corners, bask the lizards. Animals who never bothered me. In their bid to mock me, the lizard leaves a tail wriggling behind, the sparrows leave a shattered egg. The bugs and beetles in the sand, the crickets in the creeper that lines the wall, the rats who visit- all of them curse me. They shriek and swear aloud.

When I tear down the wall, I carry out a massacre and there is no water that will wash the blue blood off my hands.

*

Each layer of plaster that peels off, turns a page in my catalog of memories. Memories of women carrying pebbles on their heads to build the wall. Memories of the pain in Chameli’s back and the stiffness in Mirki’s ankles.

Memories of Dadi plastering the low walls with wet mud. Memories of the neighbor denying to lend some mud. Memories of Shyamli Tai sympathizing with Dadi. Memories of Shyamli Tai gossiping. Memories of a volley of harsh words that flew across the lane. Memories of me bearing the brunt of it all.

*

The new house is ready. Do you see how heavenly it looks?

When I step in, I hear the old bricks, the ancient mortar, the crushed knobs. I hear the moans of my home that lies buried beneath my house, gasping for breath.


This is not an original idea. I read a Rajasthani poem by Vinod Swami and it moved me so that I had to adapt it. All Beautiful words must find a home, nay?

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